PA's Unemployment Rate Drops as More Job Seekers Drop Out

Today, the Corbett administration released jobs data for February, and to answer your next question, yes, they did just release January jobs data on March 8. The release schedule gets a little delayed and then compressed at the beginning of each New Year as the Bureau of Labor Statistics revises data through a process called benchmarking.

So on to the numbers: Pennsylvania unemployment fell one-tenth of one percentage point to 8.1% in February. As I explained this morning, with employment growth weak and labor force growth strong, the state's unemployment rate has been rising since last March. Well half of that equation changed this month as employment as measured in the household survey fell by 6,000, and the labor force also fell by 13,000. As a result, the number of unemployed fell, and the unemployment rate fell very slightly. 

It will be interesting to see if this reversal in labor force growth continues. Whatever happens, it would be good for employment growth to pick up.

Nonfarm payrolls in Pennsylvania grew by just 600 jobs in February. There was also a downward revision to reported payroll growth in January, meaning that instead of adding 5,200 jobs in January, we actually added 3,900 jobs.

By industry, manufacturing and construction both had a good month, adding 1,500 and 4,400 jobs, respectively. The service sector was much less positive, as education and health services lost 5,200 jobs, and leisure and hospitality shed 4,000 jobs. Employment in mining and logging was unchanged this month and remains down by by just over 1,000 jobs from this time last year (see the figure below).

Mining and Logging

Taken together, February was not very good, with one survey showing a large decline in employment and the other a small gain. A slight decline in the unemployment rate is at least a move in the right direction, except that it was driven by a decline in the labor force.

More than half a million Pennsylvania workers remain out of work, and we remain very far from full employment. Policymakers, meanwhile, are all over the place. While the Federal Reserve is using every tool at its disposal to boost job growth, Congress continues to leave in place the across-the-board cuts in federal spending known as the sequester, which will slow growth in the coming months.

And our Pennsylvania Legislature, instead of taking up infrastructure spending, is obsessed with liquor store privatization and tax breaks for corporate jet buyers.

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